The strikes in Anbar province, at the request of the Iraqi government, are the first time the US has struck in the 'Sunni Arab heartland' since it launched its air campaign on 8 August
In August, Iraqi soldiers patrol a street near Anbar province where the Iraqi government requested US air strikes this weekend (AFP)
The United States launched its first air strikes in Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland, bombing militants near a key dam on the Euphrates River, the US military said on Sunday.
"At the request of the government of Iraq, US military forces attacked ISIL (Islamic State) terrorists near Haditha in Anbar province in support of Iraqi security forces and Sunni tribes protecting the Haditha dam," the US Central Command said in a statement.
"We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam, which remains under control of Iraqi Security Forces, with support from Sunni tribes," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.
"The potential loss of control of the dam or a catastrophic failure of the dam - and the flooding that might result - would have threatened US personnel and facilities in and around Baghdad, as well as thousands of Iraqi citizens," he added.
It was the first time that Washington carried out air strikes in support of Sunni Arab tribal militia since it launched its air campaign in Iraq on 8 August.
US officials have repeatedly stated that the country does not plan to put troops on the ground in Iraq.
Previous US air strikes had been mainly in support of Kurdish forces in the north, although late last month it gave limited air support to the army and Shiite militia further south in breaking an IS siege of the Shiite Turkmen town of Amerli.
Dams have been a key target for the militants. There has been major fighting around Iraq's largest dam on the Tigris River north of militant-held second city Mosul which has been a major focus of the US air campaign.
There have been repeated attempts by IS to take Haditha Dam.
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